We all know the age old saying, “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” And while we’re certainly not likening all business competitors to enemies, at least not in most cases, the general idea is the same—you should be closely monitoring the current happenings of your industry because if not, you’re bound to miss out.
Enter competitor tracking. This activity may not sound like a make or break PR program on the surface, but it carries multiple essential benefits that make it hard for a company to ignore. Here are a few key benefits you derive from keeping tabs on the competition:
Reporters & Relevant Outlets
The continuously evolving media landscape provides the foundation for ongoing proactive pitching opportunities. As your PR team, it’s our job to keep an ear to the ground so that we’re the first to introduce you to new publications, blogs or social media influencers.
One tried and true method to expanding your media outreach is looking to where your competitors are landing placements. If a media outlet finds your competitor of interest, that’s a likely sign that the publication will be pursuing other stories in your industry. This presents a golden opportunity to open up discussions with a reporter and demonstrate how your client’s POV on a market might just be the inspiration for their next story. By tracking reporters writing about your competitors, you can open the door to follow-up stories on the space just by reaching out and introducing yourself.
How You’re Share of Voice Is Staking Up
Tracking your competitors is a great way to measure your PR strategy. If you’re in a particularly niche industry that doesn’t get a lot of general biz press, yet you notice your competitors continually breaking down the wall, it might be time to reassess the outreach strategy. On the other hand, if you’re company name is hitting the headlines and you are securing more mentions than anyone else, then you know your on the right path. Competitor tracking can be a great barometer for success.
Apples to Apples
Before we get ahead of ourselves, one important thing to keep in mind when competitor tracking is if you’re tracking the RIGHT competitors, and for the right reasons. For example, if you were a cloud start-up it wouldn’t do you much good to constantly be comparing yourself to the likes of AWS. Why? Because you’re not in the same league—at least not yet. It never hurts to dream big, but it does hurt to have a misconstrued self-perception in terms of size and name recognition.
A great way to decipher appropriate competitors is to break them out in terms of what type of coverage you’re looking to secure—such as corporate, product or financial. For example, you can track financial news if your competitor is public, but if your company happens to be private—you’re comparing apples to oranges.
A statement we stand behind at BPR when it comes to our job is that it doesn’t take news to make news.
Often times in our industry, we hear people use the fact that a client doesn’t have an arsenal of news up their sleeve as a crutch, an excuse as to why the media isn’t knocking at their door. In truth, it definitely makes our job easier when there’s a product launch or major company announcement, but if we relied on that to drum up interest, we wouldn’t be much of a creative agency now would we?
The secret to good PR is to give the reporters what they want, what they need, maybe before they’ve even figured it out themselves. The contrast to this is shoving information down the reporter’s throat. The best way to make this best practice a reality is to follow the news. For instance, what’s in the headlines? What is the media already talking about? The news relies on current events and timely topics, and if you leverage this to your client’s advantage, half of your job is already done: figuring out the subject matter.
For example, two companies we work with are Solstice, a Seattle-based cannabis producer, and NexTitle, a full-service title and escrow company based in Bellevue. These companies are vastly different, but both are positioned to capitalize on recent news headlines.
Whether or not you’re into sports, the news of the NFL’s search for a new CMO has likely crossed your radar. Not only is this story landing in ESPN and other popular sport sites, but it’s also relevant to political news publications, as well as health reporters. Why such diverse reach? Because the new CMO’s stance on medicinal cannabis is top of mind. Solstice, which has deep roots in medicinal cannabis, is a great resource for reporters looking to find commentary and expertise on this topic. Not only are you serving reporters by giving them the source they need without having to search for it, but also you’re placing your client in the news as a thought leader. We work to create a win-win for both the reporter and our client.
Speaking of political publications, not one day in the last few weeks has gone by without the presidential election blanketing news headlines. Based on recent events, we’re in for a bumpy ride—and reporters can’t get enough of it. Here at BPR, we’re leveraging this trend for NexTitle to place the company in stories covering what the upcoming election will mean for real estate across the country. Like many areas of the economy in the spotlight, the housing market’s fate is front and center. And it just so happens our client is highly qualified to speak on this topic.
One of the best perks about getting your news angle from the news? You never run out of it, and you’re always relevant.
Now I know what you’re thinking and no, I’m not a month late in celebrating the longest day of the year. Today on the No BS Blog, we welcome Solstice, a cornerstone local cannabis producer, into the fold here at BPR.
In early 2011, Solstice came online to establish a legitimate and consistent source of cannabis, improving access points for medical users in a market that was still very much an unregulated gray area. Later that same year, they became the first commercial cannabis production company in Washington State. Since this time, their contribution to the medical and recreational community has been invaluable, and it hasn’t stopped at just providing high-quality cannabis. Solstice and its leadership has been heavily involved with drafting groundbreaking legislation for the industry, including the collective garden model to further improve safe access to cannabis. In short, their fingerprints are all over cannabis legalization in Washington State.
They’ve also got six tenets that remain the foundation for their decisions as a leading cannabis producer, and you can read more about Facility, Genetics, Cultivation, Processing, Relationships, and Accountability here. But the people behind the dream are what make this producer so special, and so successful. They believe in a greater mission for cannabis and its users, whether they’ve found the plant for medical reasons or just want to enjoy the best pre-roll in the state after a long day at work. They honor different communities of people, and go above and beyond to make sure the quality of life for their patients cannot be higher. They’ve always put the patient first, and continue to stand with that group despite their success in the recreational space and some poorly timed adjustments to the medical market here in Washington State.
We can’t wait to help tell their story. As Solstice President Will Denman notes in that piece, this is not a short road, and there may never be a finish line. But we’re more than happy to be along for the ride.
A cup of coffee and a quick check of the inbox: the first two things most PR pros do to start off the day. Take a look at yesterday’s checklist, enter early additions to that list from your morning email, and glance at your calendar to get a feel for what sort of day you’re in for. Then it’s news time.
Our infatuation with the news is a trait shared by PR folks across the land, and it’s certainly what brought me into the world of PR. We spend a good deal of time combing through coverage, looking for our own placements and proactively seeking ways to position our clients in larger trend stories. Here’s what I might search for on any given day:
“Cannabis” AND “Washington”
“Recreational marijuana” OR “Medical marijuana”
“Live Streaming” AND “Action Camera”
“RollerCoaster Tycoon World”
“Data Quality” OR “Data Quality Management”
The news cycle moves a million miles a minute, and that means keeping tabs on your clients’ respective industries – identifying reporters, publications, and those trend stories we talked about earlier. As PR professionals, we know these individual industries like the back of our hand – it’s required in order to do our job. Here at Barokas PR, we purposefully spread our people across a variety of accounts to ensure we have a diverse team that can cross-pollinate expertise and media relationships. When a new opportunity comes along, there’s a wide pool of people that can step up to the plate and leverage their past experience in that space. Nearly everyone’s search history, Google Alert list, and Tweetdeck has a similar array of diverse subjects – for us, that’s what makes this job so fun.
Fast, Focused, and Flexible
I can hear the two cons from the back row already:
“I don’t want someone who can work on all these different kinds of business. I want someone who knows MY business and the space it’s in.”
“How are you going to be able to focus on my company’s work if you’re moving this fast all the time?”
While we develop our team’s knowledge across a handful of different industries, that doesn’t mean we don’t have our specialties. For one reason or another, some of us have found success for client after client in specific areas. Need a sweet piece of hardware or gadget coverage? Talk to Bri. Need to get on the phone with a tier-1 gaming reporter? Michelle’s your girl. Launching a security company out of stealth? Frances can handle that. Want to talk cannabis? Laura does too. The list goes on and on. We can all flex our muscle across our different industries, but we have a sweet spot (or two) where we are the resident expert.
Successful PR professionals give 100% of what they’ve got to 100% of their clients. The ability to move quickly across subjects and still dive deep into each space means that when a client has a fire drill, or requests a quick turnaround on a deliverable, we can flex in a way few other agencies our size can.
I think most of our office would agree that we wouldn’t want it any other way. We live for the busy lifestyle of PR – believe me, that’s the kind of agency you want in your corner.
Despite fanboy and Twitter egg outrage everywhere, the all-female Ghostbusters was released Friday to generally positive reviews. But what many saw as a supernatural classic, the 1984 original Ghostbusters was so much more than a supernatural comedy. It was the very foundation on which I built my PR career. It’s true. Little known fact that Ivan Reitman made the movie as a metaphorical mirror on the PR industry. Slimer was most clients.
So as a new generation of PR newbies into the workforce and with the lady-driven Ghostbusters scaring up laughs across the country, I wanted to revisit the Top 10 Ghostbusters quotes that defined PR to the world.
“Sorry, Venkman, I’m terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought.” – A not-so-subtle description of how PR reps feel the day before a client announcement and some of your go-to media decline a pre-briefing.
“Egon, somehow this reminds me of the time you tried to drill a hole in your head. Do you remember that?” – What every PR practitioner thinks while a client is asking why their new app update wasn’t in the Wall Street Journal.
“You’re very handy, I can tell. I bet you like to read a lot, too. I read a lot myself. Some people think I’m too intellectual but I think it’s a fabulous way to spend your spare time. I also play racquetball. Do you have any hobbies?” – Classic new business pitch opening line when you’re trying to relate to the CMO in any way possible to build a connection.
“Uh … if there’s a steady paycheck in it? I’ll believe anything you say.” – Verbatim what PR interns say during an interview.
“I am Vinz, Vinz Clortho, Keymaster of Gozer. Volguus Zildrohar, Lord of the Sebouillia.” – Some CMOs, I won’t name names.
“Ray… pretend for a moment that I don’t know anything about metallurgy, engineering, or physics — and just tell me what the hell is going on.” – Internal monologue when a tech client is describing what they do.
“Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling! Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes! Volcanoes! The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice! Dogs and cats, living together! Mass hysteria!” – Mood around a PR office when the client emails asking if they can have a quick call to discuss budget.
“I have a radical idea. We cross the streams.” – Last ditch pitching efforts when you need to secure more media briefings.
“No job is too big, no fee is too big.” – When agencies overpromise during a new business pitch while the account lead starts to freak out that they can’t deliver on that.
“We came! We saw! We kicked its ass!” – Every single PR rep when a reporter emails back and says “Sure, I’d love to speak with your client.”
Generating interesting and timely hooks that reel in media is the bread and butter of any PR pro. One of the most common ways of doing this is taking advantage of holidays and seasonal trends. Come mid-November, Christmas trees and twinkle lights begin to appear, and there are more promotions than you can wrap your head around. Just as stores and companies begin planning their holiday promotion months in advance, so do those behind holiday-themed PR campaigns.
Here are a couple of PR tips on how to be successful in leveraging the holiday and seasonal topics this year.
We are fortunate that in this day and age there is pretty much a holiday for anything and everything. However, you don’t want to over exhaust your efforts. Be selective – pick and choose the ones that would make the most sense for your client.
For example, before deciding on your plan for a ‘back to school’ strategy, do an audit of all back to school coverage from the previous year. Figure out what kind of stories were told, when media started writing about them, what publications picked them up, etc. If most of the successful back to school campaigns launched in June and July, rather than August and September, you need to start strategizing earlier than initially thought.
The majority of companies and brands like to take advantage of holidays because it gives them a chance to connect with media and audience in engaging ways. But because everyone is taking advantage, stray away from the cliché holiday topics like ‘what mom wants for Mother’s day’. The reporters you’re pitching likely have a full inbox of holiday story ideas that are all the same. Come up with a clever way to stand out from everyone else. Instead of pitching a holiday gift guide this Christmas, figure out a way to pitch your client as a thought leader around the holiday. With every new season comes different areas of interest. In the summer people are interested in outdoor activities, safety, and travel. If you’re client can shine light on any of these topics, you can proactively think of a variety of unique angles and stories to pitch the media that are of interest of a client’s audience.
A great example of planning ahead and thinking differently is the new Anheuser Busch campaign. In May, the company announced it was changing the name of Budweiser to “America”, until the presidential elections are over in November. With their new slogan, “America is in your hands”, Anheuser Busch is spreading awareness of the importance of voting. AB is using a timely topic, in this instance the presidential election, to promote their beer. They beat the crowds of companies that will be running promotions in the few months leading up to the election by starting theirs when there wasn’t as much hype. In turn, their strategy didn’t get lost in the crowd.
Leveraging timely topics and holidays is a great way to create additional PR strategies for your clients. Whether it’s positioning clients as thought leaders or building awareness, the time of the year and recent events around the world, there is always a creative angle you can leverage with the media.
With the 2016 All-Star break coming up this week, all eyes are on the best players in baseball. Regardless of the sport, the “All-Stars” are your highlight reel players, the cream of the crop, and often the richest athletes in the game. The All-Star Week brings a variety of competition, this year to San Diego, including the annual Home Run Derby.
We hear the term home run used outside of sports everyday as a metaphor describing a great win, accomplishment, or other rewarding news. When it comes to PR, the same rule applies. As great coverage like a product launch placement or a well-written byline hit—we often reference the sports terminology. Unlike a home run in baseball, however, a trip around the bases in PR is a whole lot harder to define.
What’s a Home Run?
In baseball, it’s a hit over the fence. It’s a game-changing, sometimes game-winning play. In the PR world, the effects from a home run piece of coverage are often the same: more leads for the client’s sales team, the eye of an elusive VC, or a recruitment tool for a new executive. Whatever the effects, it’s important to define what that win will look like to a client in advance. Each business and individual we work for has his or her own definition of that PR home run. Sure, we hear a lot of “Forbes, Fortune, and Wall Street Journal”, but for other clients, a coverage win is a de-positioning article within a niche industry, or a contributed piece from a CEO that has yet to break into the thought leadership category.
This is one of our main questions in a meeting with a prospective client looking to engage with our agency. If you can wave a magic wand and land a placement anywhere in the media, what message does it contain and where is it at? At the end of the day, it’s our job to make sure our partners and their stories have the best batting average possible.
We Hit Singles Too!
Not every hit is going to be a home run, and some news stories have more potential to go deep than others. Those base hits, or smaller coverage wins, can be a great foundation for larger narratives down the road. They serve to introduce a new client to a journalist, warming the relationship for that bigger hit in a later inning. Our partners and our own team understand it’s a process, and playing small ball while waiting for that next big product launch, funding announcement, or controversial thought leadership piece – to come up and clear the bases really does work. Just ask the KC Royals.
So we’re ready to go to bat for your business, and we’ve got pretty heavy hitters and some very fast base runners in our lineup. One way or another, we’ll be scoring winning runs for your team.
“Will, you have a blog post due today.” “No problem, let me brainstorm some ideas….”
First email comes through – “can you take a review?” Ok, do this quickly then back to the brainstorming. Skype – “do you have an example?” Send that over, then back to the blog. “ThooooomY has liked your photo” – Wait, really? You’re not Thom Yorke, just some robot. Back to the blog.
Three hours later, and still no blog post. What gives? Too much content, too many notifications. How can anyone stay on track with flashing signs, constant beeps and blips, and wretched “phantom vibrations.” Checking email, looking at your phone, managing notification pop-ups – these modern tools meant to keep you informed are actually bringing you down, and they’re affecting your work flow. Here are some tips to help you stay on track:
Turn that phone upside down
For whatever reason, my phone receives emails faster than my computer. If my phone is in my pocket, I’ll feel that email before I can get eyes on it. It’s engrained in our systems to check that email right when it comes through. What if it’s important? Ok, pull out the phone, unlock it, navigate to the new email, and…. Spam. What was I writing before? Couldn’t tell you.
Take your phone out of your pocket, and flip it on its face. When you see your phone light up, it’s nearly impossible not to check it. Take care of the task at hand, then you can scroll through the endlessness of iPhone wonders.
“Do Not Disturb”
Skype, Slack and instant messaging in the workplace are great at times, horrible at others. Tools that help teams communicate quickly are great when you’re discussing the plan of action. When you’re knocking out some writing, an award submission or writing an email, they often disturb and distract.
Get in the habit of flipping to “Do Not Disturb” mode. Messages will come in, but you won’t see those pesky notifications every time someone sends a thumbs up. You can focus on your work and chime in after with your mic-dropping update – “finished…everything.”
Emails… so many emails. Your inbox sees over a hundred emails a day, but how many are time-sensitive? How many do you reply to? ProfNet, HAROs and newsletters – all great sources of information, but they can usually bog down your inbox.
50 unread messages might give you a heart attack. Filter non-time sensitive emails into a folder. They won’t pop up on your phone and they won’t come with a notification on your computer. Check them every couple times a day to stay on track, but don’t let their presence take you away from writing a press release.
If you have any question about my tips, shoot me an email. I’ll get back to you after I’ve finished all my work.
The school year has ended — you’ve either just graduated and are looking for that internship that leads into your first full-time job, or are a college student looking to get that first internship experience to stick on your resume.
We’ve all been there — you land that internship and then think to yourself “now what?” or “what can I do to make the best impression on my colleagues as possible?”
At Barokas, there are plenty of us that have been in your shoes — a lot of us started at the agency as interns after all (including myself). With internship season well underway, we wanted to provide all the interns out there a little insight into what makes a great intern, and how interns can make the most out of the opportunity. I reached out to a handful of former interns here to help answer these questions and included the most common pieces of advice below. So without further ado — how to make the most out of your PR internship:
First and foremost — ask all the questions you can think of. After all, you’re here to learn the ins and outs of PR, what better way than to ask questions. Your colleagues will appreciate you for it and it shows you’re being proactive.
Don’t Be Afraid
Be aggressive and bold during your internship — ask questions. Volunteer to handle tasks and take some work off your colleagues’ plates. Be excited and passionate. Learn from your mistakes and most importantly, have fun!
Find one thing that strikes your interest and try to own that for the office. Whether it’s consumer tech, enterprise tech, government tech, financial tech, etc. — knowing your niche and going for it will make your internship much more worthwhile.
Get to Know Your Colleagues
Coffee walks (these are big in the Denver office). Go on as many coffee walks as you can with every single person at your office. Get to know them, how they got into PR and determine their area of expertise. This shows you’re taking the initiative in your internship and getting to know your (potential) future team!
As you can see, Barokas PR interns benefit the most from asking questions, being proactive and being the squeaky wheel at the office. Your internship is what you make of it, whether you end up here with us, at another agency, or in-house elsewhere.
Now go out there and be that rock star intern. Have fun and enjoy!
Teamwork is something that is highly valued at BPR. Whether it’s stepping up when someone is out on vacation, or working through a project together to save time, without teamwork our company would not succeed.
Just like baseball players must work together to win the game, PR peeps must work together to keep clients happy. Last week, some members of BPR Seattle headed over to Safeco Field to cheer on our M’s and after seeing the teamwork they utilize to perfect their craft, I thought I’d share a few ways that BPR utilizes teamwork.
Working together internally is the best way to fulfill the needs and wants of your clients. If the team is on the same page and collaborates on each initiative, from planning and strategizing the idea to executing it in a timely manner, the results will show. Our clients depend on us and expect the best, and in order to deliver we must work together as a team.
We work together as a team to pitch the best to each and every reporter. The account lead takes point, but each member of the team plays an integral role to see media relations through to the end. Typically, the media list falls in the court of the AAE, the pitch drafting falls in the court of the AE, and the overall strategy and plan falls in the court of the account lead. However, all three team members can collaborate on how the research will be done to find the best contacts for the media list, and what angle can be used to better pitch each contact, and the results will be better than if the team doesn’t work together.
Teamwork doesn’t end with account teams, but is spread across the entire agency. We are constantly working together to make sure that everyone has the resources needed to get the job done. We are firm believers in sharing the love, whether it be sharing media lists, publication research or reporter intel – remember, teamwork makes the dream work!
And no agency is complete without some team bonding!